As Iowa GOP honors Branstad, U.S. Senate plans China confirmation hearing

Source: By Jason Noble, Des Moines Register • Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Terry Branstad unspooled a greatest hits of anecdotes, sayings and advice from his long tenure as Iowa’s governor on Tuesday, during a reception celebrating his political career and looking forward to his new role as a diplomat.

A six-term Republican, Branstad has been nominated by President Donald Trump as the U.S. ambassador to China. At this point, he could be on his way to Beijing by the end of May.

The Republican Party of Iowa-sponsored event was billed as “farewell reception” for the outgoing governor, the final of three held across the state. A crowd of more than 400 well-wishers gathered in a Des Moines banquet hall, dining on barbecue pork and pasta salad and watching a slideshow of photos from Branstad’s career.

For the program, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann invited Branstad to share his reminiscences and recollections from those four and a half decades in and around public office.

For most who have followed that career, the stories were familiar: the one about sharing a phone booth with Ronald and Nancy Reagan; the one about getting married on the day of the Watergate break-in; the one about Kim Reynolds recommending a little-known county official named Joni Ernst to succeed her in the Iowa Senate after she was elected lieutenant governor.

He repeated the saying his father used to say after a hard day’s work on the farm: “We didn’t get much done today, but we’ll give it heck tomorrow.”

Of Reynolds, who will become governor after the confirmation is finalized, Branstad lauded her as well-prepared, hard-working and conscientious.

“Every assignment I’ve ever given her, she’s exceeded expectations,” he said.

Tuesday night’s event coincided with news from Washington, D.C., that Branstad’s confirmation hearing has been scheduled in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The hearing on Branstad’s nomination as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Republic of China — the post’s actual, official title — is set for 9 a.m. next Tuesday.

The hearing will be broadcast online on the committee’s website.

Branstad travels to Washington on Wednesday for visits with senators ahead of the hearing and additional meetings at the State Department, an aide said Tuesday.

He’ll return next Monday for a final “murder board” mock hearing at the State Department and stay through midweek.

Following Kaufmann’s questioning and several rounds of applause and encomiums, Branstad reflected on the job ahead, telling the crowd the biggest challenge he’ll face as ambassador is likely to be working with China to address provocations from neighboring North Korea.

He noted his long-standing relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping — another fixture of his gubernatorial rhetoric — and said he hoped it could translate into better cooperation between the countries.

“I hope we can use that great first impression that we made to continue to build a relationship between our two countries for the benefit not only of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, but for all the people of the world,” Branstad said. “It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on, but I appreciate very much the opportunity.”